Hungarian spies are everywhere

As the minister of the prime minister’s office responsible for, among other things, Hungarian intelligence, János Lázár has very little sense of what should remain secret. I found the minutes of his speech at the meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security on June 23 shocking. He outlined several ongoing Hungarian intelligence projects, endangering not only the work of the Hungarian intelligence community but also the anonymity of its members.

So, what did we learn about Hungarian intelligence from Lázár? A lot. He began with Ukraine, a country that is in the cross hairs of the Hungarian government. It is here that the Orbán government is trying to stir up trouble. Lázár praised the work of the Hungarian military and civilian intelligence in Kiev both during and “after” the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Hungarian intelligence has also been busy in the Hungarian-inhabited parts of the Subcarpathian region of Ukraine. Reading this portion of Lázár’s speech, I gained the distinct impression that in this border region secret agents are busy feeding the Hungarian minority’s dissatisfaction. The Orbán government expects, perhaps even hopes for, a conflict between Ukrainians and Hungarians, which might give Hungary an opportunity to demand a “solution” to the problem. Only yesterday Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette) reported that this year the Hungarian government has provided 116 million forints “for the training of civilian guards,” who are supposed to defend Hungarians against Ukrainian aggression. Lázár in his speech admitted that the Ukrainian government strenuously objects to the Hungarian government’s meddling in the country’s affairs. Indeed, the Orbán government treats Ukraine like a state from whose collapse Hungary might profit.

Hungarian intelligence is equally busy, according to Lázár, in Romania. What agents are trying to determine is the exact relationship between Romania and the United States because “we know that the U.S. is very much involved in Romanian domestic politics” but “we don’t yet quite understand the nature of this relationship.” I assume there are two aspects of U.S.-Romanian relations that worry the Orbán government: (1) the two countries’ coordinated anti-Russian policies and (2) a possible anti-Hungarian understanding between the two countries.

The third neighbor, Croatia, is also a country that is antagonistic toward Hungary. There the authorities try to discredit the country through attacks on Hungarian businessmen. What Lázár has in mind is the charge of bribery against Zsolt Hernádi, CEO of MOL, in connection with Ivo Sanader’s case, which ended in an eight-year prison sentence for the former prime minister. Since Croatia’s constitutional court only today overruled the verdict, Hernádi’s troubles are postponed, at least for a while.

As Lázár put it, “of the successor states of the former kingdom” present-day Hungary has unruffled relations only with Serbia and Slovakia. If we take this comment literally, then something must also be amiss in Austrian-Hungarian and Slovenian-Hungarian relations as well.

Lázár spent quite a bit of time on Hungary’s relations with the United States. “American-Hungarian relations, which have deteriorated significantly in the past few years and which at the moment cannot be said to be good,” make the work of the Hungarian intelligence community very difficult due to its former reliance on U.S. intelligence sources. Because the friction between the United States and Hungary developed as a result of Washington’s assessment of the domestic situation in Hungary, “the Information Office [the official name of the secret service] has to pay attention to accusations which through the western media are designed to discredit Hungary.”

spies

In plain English, Hungarian intelligence officers are following the activities of those people who in one way or the other pass information on to media outlets critical of the Orbán government. Lázár proudly announced that “several campaigns have taken place in the past few years against Hungary, which have been identified.” These foreign critics “unfortunately had their domestic allies, but the intelligence community could easily detect the channels through which incorrect and false information was transmitted.” Mind you, elsewhere in the speech Lázár called attention to the law that forbids intelligence officers from conducting any business at home.

The Hungarian intelligence service plays not only defense but offense as well. Lázár finished his coverage of the antagonistic media with this sentence: “It is no secret that the Information Office must take part in the work that will change the image of Hungary in the western world.” So, intelligence officers are being used to spread pro-Orbán propaganda abroad. The first fruits of this effort was athe German DGSAP report titled “Hungary in the Media, 2010-2014: Critical Reflections on Coverage in the Press and Media,” compiled with the active help of Klaus von Dohnanyi, the former socialist mayor of Berlin.

The European Union is also a target of Hungarian intelligence. In fact, Lázár instructed the Information Office to find out as much as possible about those groups who turn to Brussels for redress of the allegedly discriminatory practices of the Hungarian government. Lázár is very proud that they managed to learn who was responsible for some of the infringement procedures against Hungary. Thanks to Lázár, we now know that there are currently 65 infringement procedures in the works. Lázár finds the lobbying activities that take place in Brussels “shocking” because “they are conducted against Hungary and the work of the Hungarian legislature.” Unfortunately, the intelligence community has to take up this burden because, until recently, Hungary was unable to successfully represent its own interests in Brussels, unlike Slovakia, Romania or Poland.

The reason for Hungary’s poor performance in Brussels was the less than satisfactory work of Hungary’s Permanent Representation to the European Union, whose “most important task is to present and assert Hungarian interests and sectoral policies in the European Union.” Not long ago responsibility for this permanent mission in Brussels was moved from the foreign ministry to the office of the prime minister, under the supervision of János Lázár himself. Lázár commented on the move. “I will just mention, but I won’t give any details, that it was not by chance that the permanent representation and the information office are both under the same structural unit, the prime minister’s office.” Does this mean that the Hungarian permanent representation is filled with spies, or at least that there is cozy relation between the two bodies?

Two of the neighbors reacted sharply to Lázár’s revelations about Hungarian intelligence activities in their countries. The Hungarian ambassador to Ukraine was called into the Ukrainian foreign ministry where deputy foreign minister Natalia Halibarenko expressed her country’s worries about Hungary’s intentions. She said that conducting intelligence activities in her country without first informing the Ukrainian intelligence service was unacceptable. Nikolai Sungurovskii, the director of an important Ukrainian think tank, the Razumkov Center, expressed his opinion that Hungarian policies toward Ukraine pose a danger and that they may lead to a massive Hungarian separatist movement with possible Hungarian involvement. In fact, according to reports, the Hungarian government is prepared for a large Hungarian exodus from Ukraine.

Romanian-Hungarian relations have been rocky for a long time, but the presence of the former Romanian member of parliament, Attila Markó, in Hungary has exacerbated the situation. He is one of the many Romanian politicians who are being accused of corruption. I can’t pass judgment on his guilt or innocence, but I can say that Romanians have been taking corruption seriously lately and the number of arrests is very high. Markó escaped to Hungary, which irritates Bucharest to no end, especially since there is a European arrest warrant against him. The Romanian foreign minister asked Péter Szijjártó “to observe the European legislation in this field so that the procedure may be completed.” Hungary refused, and Romanian public opinion is up in arms. A Romanian politician who is not exactly a friend of Hungarians in the first place wrote an article on his blog in which he expressed his total amazement that Orbán has the temerity, after the Markó affair, to visit Romania this weekend. Indeed, Orbán is already in Transylvania. He posted the following picture of himself and his youngest daughter with this caption: “In Transylvania, at home.” I wonder what the Romanian reaction to this purposefully ambiguous caption will be.

Orban es Flora

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Webber
Guest

Orban may literally mean “at home in Transylvania.” Rumor is that he and/or his wife own quite a bit of property there. It could be interesting if the Romanian government were to publish information on Orban’s private property holdings in that country.

András B. Göllner
Guest

Thanks for this very important piece Éva – a much neglected topic about the activities of Hungary’s security services abroad, and their mandate to discredit anyone who manages to gain public attention with evidence about the Orbán regime’s rule of law violations. There should be much more attention devoted to this and to the other covert operations of the Orbán regime – the use of vast amounts of public funds to promote party political activities in North America, and to deceiving the American and Canadian publics.

Charles Gati
Guest

With one exception, Lazar has something bad/critical to say about the US, the EU, Romania, especially Ukraine, by implication about Austria, Slovenia, and several other countries as well. All of them, Lazar reports, try to undermine Hungary’s political and economic order. In simpler terms, they’re all out to get Hungary. The exception is Russia. It’s unmentioned in the report. I’ll let others interpret the pathology of Lazar’s message.

dos929
Guest

Some decades ago one knew who are and who aren’t one’s friends and allies, and who are the enemy… In today’s world one cannot trust even ‘friends’. The US spies on her own allies, but puts trust in Iran… No wonder that Orban is not afraid to spy on Hungary’s nearest neighbours, most of whom are sister countries in the EU. But his primary motivation is not of protecting Hungary’s interests, as none of these countries is threatening Hungary. His purpose is to stir trouble and profit from it in order to add further support of the Hungarian ethnic population in the regions around Hungary’s borders. He and his regime are using those misguided Hungarians for their own advantage. Orban is a first degree conman, and as such has a servile audience in those areas of ethnic Hungarians, as well as in the EU administration that logic would suggest just the opposite; they should castigate Orban for stirring trouble in the EU…

Guest

The picture is extremely well composed, with a diagonal from top right to bottom left and red/green and blue/yellow color contrasts in harmony. It is professional work.

There is a blur in the lower right corner probably put there to obscure Orban’s belt.

Orban tells his daughter: “This will be your principality.”

exTor
Guest

Good notice, Jean P. I missed the blur the first time.

Professional work? Doubtful. Whatever good qualities exist in the picture, which may actually be a crop of a larger one, they probably came about by happenstance. The daughter [Flora] is centered. Viktor Orbán is on the right wearing good-guy white, which draws the eye to him, the brightest image in the composition. All the colors create the feeling of naturalness: flowers, trees, darkening sky. The dangling lights suggest Christmas.

An almost perfect home photo, except the faces could have been lightened. As for the bottom-right blur, it’s probably a chair of some kind, not a belt, which would have been too high on Orbán’s body. Even though the chair is in the foreground, there is no reason for that kind of bluriness, unless its extreme closeness to the photographer caused the sharpness differential.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

“.. the faces could have been lightened..”
Look at the big flower pot. The light comes from the right. Where does the light on Orbans profile come from?

exTor
Guest

You misunderstood me, Jean P.

When I wrote “An almost perfect home photo, except the faces could have been lightened.”, I meant that “the faces should have been lightened”, in other words: photoedited. I did not mean that “the faces may have been lightened”, as you seem to have interpreted, hence your question.

In this English, ‘could’ = ‘should’.

To me, this is a totally unmanipulated photo. It’s somewhat darker than it should be. I could have lightened it no probs with my iPhoto app. The only weirdness (which you brought up) is the chair’s excessive blurriness.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

There are too many ambiguos words that disturb communication. Lighten is one of them. It can mean to make lighter or it can mean to illuminate. I took it to mean illuminate (during photographing), and so I misunderstood you. It seems to me that the highlight on Orban’s profile is created by a second light source during photographing because the primary light source illuminates the back of his head.

spectator
Guest

A few more “problem with the picture” – if we are at it:

-In my opinion the image has been manipulated: just look at the point where that blurred part touches the sleeve, it appears cutting into it. Only ‘natural’ occurrence could have been if he lays his arm over a transparent piece of material – glas or plastic – which have a somehow of curved surface too, in order to reflect this way.

-The light from the lamp (in the background) can highlight the profile, but something stronger, – that primary light source – cast quite a shadow on the girl’s face.

-Too many different light-source with different color temperature to achieve natural color with no hint of varying cast to be “untouched”, in my opinion.

Guest

Kings, emperors and their family always used to be displayed graciously in Medieval Times – which is what Orbán wants to return to …
His wish to reside in the Budapest castle district says a lot about him!

exTor
Guest

Sorry folks, the Flora/Viktor picture is 100% natural. Anybody looking for ‘strangeness’ is SOOL.

The shadows are all consistent with the major light source somewhere behind Viktor Orbán. I already explained why the chair is severely out-of-focus in the right-front corner. Hit Wikipedia below for an explanation of depth-of-field in photography.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depth_of_field

Reread my posts. This is a pretty-good pic. From my perspective, the faces could have –’should have’ for Jean P– been lighter, but the pic was probably a spur-of-the-moment thingie, which is fine. That’s where an after-the-fact photoediting app comes in handy.

I cant believe it. We’ve got a clot of Hungarian Spectrum conspiracy theorists hovering over this no-big-deal picture. No contheorist has yet asked the lawyer question: ‘Cui bono?’

Who gains from a touched-up photo of Orbán? Let’s move on.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Sorry folks, exTor is wrong. The white area around the lamp in the upper right corner is obviously made with a white paintbrush. Something has been erased.This is a less than 100% natural picture. Let’s move on anyway.

Max
Guest

Since 2010 the budget of Információs Hivatal has grown by some 50%, while that of the higher education has been slashed by 50%.

So that it is clear for everyone what are the priorities for this revolutionary government.

tappanch
Guest

From the 2016 budget plan:

Információs Hivatal: 12.7 billion HUF
Katonai Nemzetbiztonsági Szolgálat 13.6
Nemzeti Védelmi Szolgálat 6.1
Terrorelhárítási Központ 12.1
Alkotmányvédelmi Hivatal 7.7
Nemzetbiztonsági Szakszolgálat 17.7
Nemzeti Kommunikációs Hivatal 0.4
Nemzetpolitikai tevékenység támogatása 4.9

Total of 75.2 billion forints for spying inside and outside the country and for government propaganda.

[Did I miss some of the agencies? Please feel free to add !]

All of the universities except the one below: 153.1 billion.
Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem 4.3 + building projects of ??

History Rewriting Institutions (Nemzetstratégiai Kutató Intézet+Rendszerváltás Történetét Kutató Intézet és Archívum+VERITAS Történetkutató Intézet+Magyar Nyelvstratégiai Intézet +Közép- és Kelet-európai Történelem és Társadalom Kutatásért +Nemzeti Hauszmann Terv)

7.2

House of Terror = ?

tappanch
Guest

“MAGYAR MŰVÉSZETI AKADÉMIA”: 6.6 billion forints
BETHLEN GÁBOR ALAP: 11.8

tappanch
Guest

State television and radio (MTVA) 69.9 billion forints

Webber
Guest

I think you might add the Habsburg Történeti Intézet.

spectator
Guest

House of Terror = ?

Anything on the Parliament?
That’s the one..!

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

I hope to receive the papers of the information office about my activities against the Orbán regime. When I expressed such hopes in the early 80ies of last century, some people in Budapest did not believe in it. But soon after the implosion of the Kádár regime I received part of the III/III reports on myself. So I hope to live long enough to see how the Orbán regime comes to an end.

petofi
Guest

It’s high time people started realizing that Orban is well past deconstructing Democracy…What Orban is now doing is deconstructing civil society.

Guest
Re: “Hungarian intelligence is equally busy, according to Lázár, in Romania. What agents are trying to determine is the exact relationship between Romania and the United States because “we know that the U.S. is very much involved in Romanian domestic politics” but “we don’t yet quite understand the nature of this relationship.” Just surprised a bit on this one with the fact that there have been some successes on anti-corruption efforts in Romania made by the prosecutor Laura Kovesi who heads the country’s National Anticorruption Directorate. A comment on her noted she was the ‘…. most feared and, for some, the most hated person in Romania’. Quite understandable under the circumstances. I don’t doubt her office gets swept continually for creepy ‘bugs’. Could this be what Lazar fears will start to bleed out from Romania and enter perhaps into Magyarorszag and upset the Fidesz applecarts? Perhaps he is afraid of some possible realities? For sure this will fracture relationships moreso with Romania as well as the U.S. which is firmly behind the anti-corruption efforts. I’d think Lazar does not like what sees up ahead if successes continue. Look for the clandestine services to be continually monitoring these events since wherever… Read more »
Andrea Scarlat
Guest

No reaction in Ro, except from the usual suspects.Nobody really cares, since there is only talk and no action. Many Romanians understand that Mr Orban has elections to face, and if this is the kind of rhetoric that brings him votes home, let him be. If he wants to move to Transylvania, he is welcome, however the trend here is that all politicians have at least a yacht and a property in Monte Carlo, while selling their country at a discount price. Only Prince Charles, keeps buying and restoring old farmers’ houses in Transylvania. The prime minister Ponta (a less competent version of Orban, since he is already a political corpse) has just been invited by DNA prosecutors to their office, and not for coffee and cookies. And it is true, The States did more to empower Kovesi than the EU.

Guest

Re: “And it is true, The States did more to empower Kovesi than the EU”

And on that may I suggest more vilification rants about the U.S.efforts on corruption in countries in that area? I’d think more ‘interfererence’ commentary could be on the agenda in the future if things keep up. With that and the FIFA scandal expose the U.S. isn’t on their ‘fav’ list. Why? Because they’re stirring up the sludge. Putin, Orban and the rest of the gang simply look at the U.S. as troublemakers.

Webber
Guest

Hungarian intelligence is also extremely active within Hungary – young Fidesz activists regularly send reports to the party about little people’s political views. They are especially active during election campaigns. To those who will (again) point out that political parties in other countries do the same, I can only say that in Hungary this data is also used for other purposes than campaigning. People in state jobs can be and are fired; people not in such positions can be and are blacklisted. In Hungary, the state sector is enormous (incl. health care, education, state-owned enterprises). I personally know of a case in higher-ed. when a group of researchers applying for a non-political research project were expressly told that if x-y were included in the application, it would be rejected. X-y is an outstanding researcher. The communication about him was, of course, verbal only.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Webber they copy the methods of the Kádár-regime.

Guest

It’s all over the European press:
Orbán wants that fence to be finished by the end of August – using prisoners as labourers …
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/ungarn-viktor-orban-aetzt-gegen-fluechtlinge-a-1045351.html
The “Hungarian intelligence forces” will have a lot of work to do …

exTor
Guest

No irony deficiency for the Viktor, who’s been talking his irony sups like a good boy. Plenty of irony to go around.

One of the blue-billboard messages warned immigrants –more like passersthrough– to not take Hungarian jobs.

One would think that Viktor Orbán, the champion of Magyars, would offer Hungarians jobs to construct fences to keep the job-stealing bevándorló out.

Given the Sunday-closings job losses, shouldn’t locals get a chance for some good-paying gigs down by the border? Why should lowlifes [read: criminals] get to volunteer [read: be coerced to give] their labor for free?

MAGYARKOZÓ

petofi
Guest

A little math to highlight the stupidity of Hungaricoes…

The fence is 75 km long. The refugees have travelled thousands of kms to get to the border. Do the Hungarian brainworks think it a great deal for the refugees to go another 37.5 kms and walk around the fence?

Guest

I strongly believe this whole anti – migrants campaign including the building of the fence is mostly aimed at distracting the Hungarians from what Fidesz is doing on a daily basis in/to the country.

spectator
Guest

Have no illusions people, we all have our particulars, shoe sizes, dental records (just in case, you know..), and some, on the Orbanian list of “Enemies of the State”.

I hope the list just getting longer by the day!

István
Guest
It is not completely correct that the minutes of János Lázár speech at the meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security does not discuss Russia. In fact he states Russia presents a challenge to the EU as does Ukraine. He also indicates that the war continues in the Ukraine, which is objectively correct. One of the relatively better observations in the report to the committee. I was intrigued by this passage: “Itt látszik az, hogy Kínának komoly érdekei vannak a tekintetben, hogy Magyarország stratégiai partnere legyen Közép- Európában, tehát kell kínai-magyar relációban is gondolkodnunk, és a déli nyitás tekintetében is vannak bőségesen feladataink.” Does the Orban government actually believe there can be some type of strategic block between the Chinese and the Hungarian governments in relation to policy in Central Europe, that seems a truly fantastic dream on the part of Lázár. I also found it bizarre that Lázár indicated Hungary’s most important relationship in terms of intelligence information was first with Germany, secondly with Israel, and third with the USA. But I honestly can’t imagine either Germany or Israel passes on to Hungary anything that has not been vetted with the CIA, particularly since it is more than… Read more »
Webber
Guest

The last politician in the region who spoke of China as a counterweight to Western powers was Slobodan Milosevic. His Chinese policies ended in 1999 with the bombing of Serbia and, incidentally, the shameful and sadly mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The politician before that who counted on China was Albania’s Enver Hoxha.

wpDiscuz